(North Kingstown, R.I.) A historic enclave in North Kingstown has received federal recognition for its contributions to the history of architecture and community development. Jeffrey Emidy, Interim Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, announced that the National Park Service has listed Cedar Point Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the Federal Government's official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation. With its five vernacular houses constructed between 1872 and 1910 on the south shore of Wickford Cove, the three-acre Cedar Point Historic District endures as a self-contained residential enclave, where little has changed for the past century.
The history of Cedar Point in North Kingstown is closely tied to the emergence of Newport as a favorite summer resort destination for the well-to-do in the mid-19th century. Until the 1870s, New Yorkers had to take a train to Providence to connect to a Newport-bound boat—or change trains in Providence and again in Fall River, Massachusetts, for a final leg of the journey to Newport. In 1870, the Newport & Wickford Railroad and Steamship Company was incorporated to construct three and a half miles of tracks, a new depot on Hamilton Avenue (now Boston Neck Road) south of Wickford Cove, and a new steamship dock on Wickford Harbor. The railroad spur opened in June 1871, and the steamer Eolus made its first trip to from Wickford to Newport one month later. Visitors and passers-through soon discovered that Wickford was a desirable summertime destination in its own right—and an attractive spot for suburban living year-round.
In 1869, Benjamin P. Tucker purchased a 125-acre farm on Wickford Cove for $4000, and he sold it to a real estate partnership for $8000 just two years later. The group of investors created Wickford's first residential subdivision, the Sherman Farm Plat. Laid out in 1871-72, the house lots were located within easy walking distance to the new train depot. The railroad right of way cut across the plat, separating 26 house lots from the rest of the subdivision. This tree-shaded and tranquil waterfront enclave was known as Cedar Point, a name evidently inspired by the prevalence of cedar trees on the site.
By 1881, three summer cottages had been constructed on Cedar Point. The first house was a Late Victorian-style cottage erected in 1873 for relatives of one of the Sherman Farm Plat developers. The second was a modest version of the Second Empire or Mansard style built in 1878 for the family of a Providence police officer. From 1885-1902, it was owned by Georgianna Pettey of Fall River, who dubbed it "Cedar Point Villa" and rented it out for short-term summer stays. And the third cottage was a late Victorian-style home erected for the family of a Cranston building contractor in 1880-81.
Between 1885 and 1902, members of an extended family with deep roots in Wickford acquired the three summer cottages at Cedar Point and built a fourth house (in 1890) as a year-round residence, creating a family compound that persisted for several decades. The fifth and final house in the historic district was built in 1909-10 as a year-round home for oysterman Charles Post and his wife, Ada.
Few changes have occurred at Cedar Point over the past century. Passenger service on the Newport & Wickford railway ended in 1925, and the railway was abandoned in 1963. A house was erected nearby but outside the boundaries of the historic district in 1948, and the driftway to and roadway within Cedar Point was renamed Loop Drive in 1953.
The National Register documentation was prepared by preservation consultant Kathryn Cavanaugh. Homeowners Dave and Deirdre Wrenn commented, "We couldn't be more pleased that Cedar Point has been listed in the National Register. We are grateful for the work of preservation professionals, the care of property owners, and the efforts of those who safeguard historical records."
RIHPHC's Interim Executive Director Jeffrey Emidy also announced that the boundaries of the Wakefield Historic District in South Kingstown have been increased. The expanded historic district now includes Saugatucket Park (1934-36, designed by Olmsted Brothers), Saugatucket River Footbridge (1941 et seq.), and the former Wakefield Post Office (1934-36, designed by Albert Harkness).
Emidy noted, "The Cedar Point historic district is a collection of well preserved, modest houses that, while nearby, tell a different story than the buildings of historic Wickford. In Wakefield, the park, bridge, and post office, in addition to other properties added to the district in 2019, also recognize different types of resources than those in the original nomination. In both cases, these additions to the National Register build on previous knowledge of areas that are significant to residents and visitors, alike. We appreciate the interest and assistance of preservation advocates in North and South Kingstown in listing these properties."
In addition to honoring a property for its contribution to local, state, or national history, listing on the National Register provides additional benefits. It results in special consideration during the planning of Federal or federally assisted projects and makes properties eligible for Federal and Rhode Island tax benefits for historic rehabilitation projects. Owners of private property listed on the National Register are free to maintain, manage, or dispose of their property as they choose. As the state office for historic preservation, the RIHPHC is responsible for reviewing and submitting Rhode Island nominations to the National Register. The nominations for Cedar Point Historic District and Wakefield Historic District are available on the RIHPHC website, www.preservation.ri.gov.